samedi 15 mars 2014

Bistro Bellet - Belly Up!

It's been a couple weeks since Co. and I checked the latest PLACE TO BE IN PARIS, Bistro Bellet in the 10th, not far from Gare de l'Est.   I'll keep this short because, you're busy, I'm busy, who hell has the time?  Plus, I really don't remember much about the visit anyway.  Too much interference courtesy of another terrific dinner at Septime last night - what a great place.

Okay, if Bistro Bellet was great, I would probably be saying it and remembering a whole lot more, but I ain't getting any younger and neither are the neurons in the memory center of my brain.  Don't mind me, you don't need to know that.  Okay, BB may not be great, but it's pretty damn good.  And the great thing about BB is they are open early and they close late.  You don't find that too often on the restaurant scene in Paris.  As Le Fooding inquires: Où trouver une bouillabaisse à 23 heures un vendredi ?  I hear you.

BB filled up pretty quickly not long after we arrived around 8 pm.  Big spacious room, a bit too bright for my taste, but comfortable nonetheless.  Before I get into the details, let me give you a piece of advice if you, like me and Co., follow the Google map (or your handy smartphone app) to find the best route from Gare de l'Est.  Let me tell you, that's a short - but colorful - walk, harmless, but a little dicey nonetheless.  The direct mapped route has you walking through the Passage du Desir.  Sounds pretty romantic, doesn't it?  Well, it sort of is, until you get to the end and you see these two giant closed doors chained and locked.  That's right, the map doesn't show that, which apparently appears around sundown when people are going to the restaurant and Google photographers are snug in their lairs.  Back the way we came to the next through street to rue Du Faubourg St. Denis, numero 84.  A mere glitch in an otherwise pleasant evening.

The more I ruminate here about the BB dinner, the more I realize I'm looking forward to going back.  Traditional French cuisine, regularly changing carte, and enough originality to merit the trip to a dead end and then back again.  Unfortunately, I didn't photograph the carte, so I can't remember the specific make up of the dishes, but have a look anyway:

Poisson and roquette - excellent



bouillabaisse à 21 heures - their specialty, and it lived up to expectation


Tarte chocolate - good as it looks, but you probably won't write your grandmother about it

Bouille Bellet - not too impressive



As for entrees, we weren't too intrigued by the 5 or so offerings, so we ended up splitting a pretty standard salade de legumes.  That put us in the 2-course 32€ category, in lieu of the 3-course 36€ option, but as mentioned, there were a couple supplements.  A decent 27€ bottle of Cahors, bringing the total to 101, with a couple dreaded supplements thrown in.  Basically, BB is a bright new addition to the Paris restaurant scene, moving us in the right direction in terms of less rigidity in opening hours, reservations, stodginess and bread (Sangaré Bakary, chez Thierry Breton).  You're not going to get blown away by François Chenel's originality in the kitchen, but you won't walk away unhappy.

BISTRO BELLET
84, rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis
75010 Paris
tel: 01 45 23 42 06
Website:  What website?


samedi 1 mars 2014

Caillebotte - Isn't It Romantic?

The answer is: NO! 
And the question certainly was relevant on the Friday evening that Co. and I visited Caillebotte, the relatively new offspring of Franck Baranger (the chef), and Edouard Bobin's popular venue Le Pantruche.  Located not far from the Gare St. Lazare and the Grandes Boulevards in the South Pigalle district, you are guaranteed to get lost if you follow Google maps.  I speak from experience.  By the way, the Friday evening in question was Feb. 14th, better known as St. Valentine's Day.  Well into our meal, as I gazed lovingly into Co.'s deep, dark eyes, she looked at me and whispered, "It isn't very romantic."

She had that right - more on the modern side of traditional, Caillebotte, despite the misleading images you'll find at Googe images, is intimate, but not in a good way.  The space is pretty tiny, and if you don't luck out like Co. and I did and get seated at one of the solo two-seat tables, you can expect to be scrunched in-between other diners and hearing every word they coo.  We were lucky, as I mentioned, but still had the ornery waitress glaring at us from time to time, I guess a function of the fact that we arrived around 8 pm for our 7:30 pm reservation and came within, I surmised, about another minute or two from having our table handed over to a female duo waiting eagerly at the bar.  Ignorantly following the Google map in lieu of my more reliable little red book (Paris by arrondissements), I got us about as far away in the opposite direction as humanly possible before a human with half a brain would stop and say, "I don't think we're going in the right direction."

Well, enough complaining, if there's one thing that definitely recommends Caillebotte, it's the one thing that really matters - the food.  And here I had no complaints.  For a 3-course 35€ menu (plus - and I guess I can complain as I am wont to do when this element rears its ugly head - some supplements), the quality was well up to par.  Here's the barely visible carte from the evening of our visit:

click to enlarge


Round one, the entrees, went to your's truly with the poulpes - a unique combination of egg yolk, mushroom cream, chantilly fumee, etc.  Excellent.  Co.'s salade de legume d'hiver was less impressive, and pretty sparse when it came to the key ingredient that lured her in that direction, the smoked eel.  Still, pretty tasty with the chevre and parmesan crumble.


Salsifis aux poulpes de roche (+2€)




Salade de legumes d'hiver



Things stayed on a high note with the main plates.  I happily went with the one fish dish on the menu, the pave de lieu jaune, replete with the chapelure de pain brulee, cauliflower mousseline, and bouillon parmesan - the combination hit the spot.  Co. perked up with the scallops dish, St. Jacques d'Erquy, with fenouil de cafe and mousse d'oursine.  I remember reading a comment online from a dissatisfied diner who claimed to have been served unfresh scallops - no problem in that regard for Co.

Lieu jeune - terrible photo, I know, but sometimes with food porn, you've got to live with grainy.





St. Jacques d'Erquy (+5)



 Desserts hit the hat trick.

Biscuits russes (me, the sucker for anything pralinee)


Mousee au chocolate - not what you'd expect (in a good way, with black olives)


All told, with the two 'menus,' the supplements, a reasonably priced Pinot noir (25€), and one espresso (2€), the whole shebang came to a respectable 104€.  By dessert time, the St. Valentine's vultures - the ones with reservations for the 9:30 second seating - had begun to hover in the foyer and things got about as unromantic as possible.  The waitresses were stressed, the first sitting diners were lingering (me, over a cafe), and who knows what from the patrons who casually arrived a good half hour after us.  Not exactly the best ambiance, I grant you.   It may not be your candlelit lover's hideaway, and it may be spatially challenged, but as long as the food stays this good, they'll keep a-comin'.

CAILLEBOTTE
8 rue Hippolyte Lebas
75009 Paris
01 53 20 88 70
website:  don't think so.






mercredi 26 février 2014

Anahuacalli - Take That Marguerita And Shove It

Anahuacalli has long been registered in the locals' minds as the go-to place in Paris for decent Mexican grub.  Bear in mind, that's not saying much, since Mexican restaurants in Paris mostly suck, and that's putting it gently, especially when they are labelled 'Tex Mex."  Avoid at all costs, trust me.  Getting back to Anahuacalli, don't get too excited - it sucks, too.

Which doesn't mean you can't have an enjoyable evening with good friends and significant other, which is exactly what Co. and I experienced about a month ago on a Friday night in February.  Hell, I've long learned that when you drink enough tequilla, you can have an enjoyable night anywhere, regardless of poor service and mediocre food, which basically describes what's in store at Anahuacalli.

This wasn't a first visit to said locale for yours truly.  I checked out the venue shortly after their opening, something like a good 20 years ago.  What I remember is somewhat above average Mexican cuisine and a futile effort on the part of our server to overcharge us on the wine.  So admittedly, I didn't have a very good attitude going into this, and that wasn't lessened when I called to reserve and basically had to rely on a series of grunts and coughs to make myself understood to someone who's French was even worse than mine, if that is possible.

At any rate, we received a warm welcome, and were placed at a choice corner table, perhaps in part due to the fact that our friends were periodic patrons.  On their part, you can't beat a decent margarita, and they sometimes got some decent ones at Anahuacalli - as in, hit or miss.  On this evening in question, it was a large swing and miss.  Not being a margarita drinker myself - unless pressed, lightly - I probably wouldn't be the best judge of quality, but when I saw my friends ordering side shots of tequilla to spice up their cocktails, the writing was on the wall.

On to the food.  On the table upon arrival was the obligatory bowl of nacho chips and, for once in a Parisian Mexican, they weren't overly salty and stale.  Our entree consisted of a shared combination platter for four, the "surtido de entradas."  This was a pretty good way to start off, consisting as it did of guacamole, taquitos. ceviche, nopalitos, and tostada de boeuf.  Decent, but unspectacular guacamole and an above-average ceviche.  Here's what it looked like:


Surtido de Entradas entree



It was all downhill from there.  It took so long for our main plates to arrive, I swear, at some point I just completely forgot I was sitting in a restaurant having a meal and just figured I was hanging out with friends over a few drinks.  Eventually, when one of my dinner companions politely inquired of our waitress whether the kitchen had closed and no one had bothered to inform us, she explained that it was the fish that I had ordered that took long to prepare. Of course I had to order this dish, on the basic premise that any food that is flambeed with tequilla must be truly excellent.  Unfortunately, 
when the fish dish arrived, I wondered how exactly all that time had been utilized, because there was absolutely nothing special about it - it was downright nothing to write home about - or wait for an eternity for, whichever comes first.

Pescada a la Veracruzana - wait forever to be disappointed

Meanwhile, Co. had a chance to dig into her assortment of pollo en salsa verde, cochinita pibil, barbacoa, and frijoles negra, which sounds pretty fancy until you hear Co. blurt out, 'Isnt' this the same thing I just ate for the entree?'


Tacos de la Merced - deja vu?

Our friends weren't much more satisfied with their dishes, enchiladas verdes and something else.  The bill, including a bottle of wine, a couple tequillas, and several margaritas, a couple of which were graciously comped in response to a negative review, somehow barely cracked the century mark (102 euros), which is some small solace. 

So the verdict is in - Anahuacalli offers a very nice ambiance to spend a long evening catching up with good friends, at a reasonable price, and assuming you don't pay much attention to the food and service. 

I remember a very good, genuine Mexican - or was it Guatemalan - on the corner of rues Rambuteau and Quincampoix that is now long gone.  Will somebody please open up another restaurant like that in Paris? And if it already exists, please tell me about it.

ANAHUACALLI
30 rue des Bernardins
75005 Paris
tel: 01 43 26 26 53
website: http://www.r-m-g.fr/uk/restaurant-gastronomique-mexicain-paris-site-officiel.php#restaurant-gastronomique-mexicain-anahuacalli-notre-dame-paris-5.php

jeudi 13 février 2014

Postcards From Venice - Part 2, the Good Part


Okay, time to finish up my 2-part installment on my recent short-lived visit to Venice, Italy.  I know you'd probably rather I get back to the Paris scene, which is probably what brought you to this site, but I don't want to neglect 'and beyond.'  Don't worry, a lot of Paris stuff coming up, including Anahuacalli and Le Caillebotte. So stay tuned.

If you read Part 1, you might have gotten the impression that I was pretty fed up with eating out in Venice after having such a difficult time finding restaurants on my list that were actually open for business, that I just stuck to drinking, and ended up falling in the extremely poorly secured drop-off points along the canals.  Well, the good news is that I didn't forget the bottle and I didn't fall in.  What more can one ask for?  How about a decent lunch?

Impronta Cafe -
Dorsoduro 3815
+39 041 275 0386

Following my aforementioned failures to grab some cibo at Al Vecio Pozzo or Ristorante Ribot, I trekked on over to the apparently highly-regarded Impronta Cafe - on my 'go to' list and recommendation #2 for my hotel concierge.  I had plans to have dinner there, but desperately seeking a venue for lunch, the hour getting late, I figured I'd worry about dinner when I came to that bridge, and bridges are certainly not hard to find in Venice.  Rather modern looking by Venice standards, I had the impression this was more of a non-touristical trendy spot than one is apt to find on the way to the Ponte Rialto.  Having learned my lesson the night before regarding primo and secundo platos - too much, cheri - I opted for one pasta dish and dessert.  Both were mighty fine, starting with the tagliolini neri, black pasta with almonds laying in a sauce that I have now forgotten (15€) and followed up by a homemade tiramisu with fruit from the woods (6€), which was delicious, but for my taste, too fruity.  Topped off with a glass of house red (3.50€) and an espresso (2€), the bill came to a not-so-cheap 31.92€.

Tagliolini neri

Tiramisu with fruit and some kind of stupid, inedible flowery thing on top



Impronta has a kind of deli-style counter running along one of the walls where take-out of sandwiches, breads, and desserts is possible.  I hate to say that this nearly ruined my lunch.  A mother and her young son spent a good half hour between my table and the counter doing the sorts of obnoxious mother/child stuff that might be appropriate at the playground, but not beside one's table when you're trying to chill out from wandering aimlessly in a foreign city trying to figure out where one is.  After a while, they really got on my nerves, the kid doing all those things that civil French hate about kids, especially kids in restaurants/cafes - acting cute, acting out, goo gooing with the mother, spilling food on himself, and, well, just plain being a kid in a restaurant.   Eventually, my ornery-side got the better of me and I turned to the mother and in my chillingly hostile voice informed her that I was trying to eat.  She seemed to have gotten the message, but just as quickly was back to acting all obnoxiousy mothery again.  When she finally left, she turned at the door and bid me adieu, which nearly brought a smile to my face. 


Muro  -Campo Bella Vienna
San Polo 222     +39 041 24 12 339
One more to tell you about, dinner at Ristorante Muro.  Even further along the yellow brick road on the way to Ponte Rialto, after lunch at Impronta, I stopped in at Muro, another one on my list, and reserved for later that evening.  This was a Friday night, and by the time I was into my meal, the place was pretty packed with a mutti diverse clientele.  I must admit, I had a pretty good feeling about Muro when I stopped by at lunch time - it was quiet, yet busy, subdued lights, decent staff.  When I got there for dinner, oddly, it seemed brighter and less formal than my first impression.  I was seated at a small table near the back and, although my server kept forgetting to inform me of the night's specials, he turned out to be pretty helpful.  And I certainly enjoyed the meal, the best I've had in this young year.  I started off with a bowl of mussels and clams, Pepata di Cozze (12€).  Man, this was good.  The sauce was spiffed up with garlic and lopped up with the toasted bread.

Pepata di Cozze



When I commended the dish to the server, he opined, 'the best is yet to come,' and he was correct.  I ordered the special - spaghetti and lobster Primo del Giorno (20€).  I had been tempted by the whole grilled fish, but the price by the kilo looked risky.  I shied away from the grilled seafood platter after my disappointing plate the night before at Osteria ae Cravate.  The Primo, though, was superb, with a half lobster to go along with spaghetti with shrimp and tomato that was spiced up by something akin to the great Old Bay seasoning, but less salty and a bit spicier.  Encore.


Mamma mia - Primo del Giorno


Nothing much appealed to me on the dessert menu, so I opted for the tiramisu(5€) again - also homemade, simpler and better than the pretty decent one I had earlier in the day at Impronta.


Muro's tiramisu, sans fruit from the woods


View from my table at Muro, early Friday evening
 Muro doubles as a pizzeria, and pizza was a big calling card at several of the tables during my visit.  Just sayin'.  The tab, including a half carafe of red came to paltry 49€ - can't argue with that.  Muro may not be on the lists in all the guides, but I heartily recommend it, so there.

Just to add, I was among the guests at another dinner at the Casino of Venice.  It was a pretty good meal, featuring some decent artichokes, which is about all I can remember, so the wine must have been pretty good, too.  I did have a chance to wander to the casino part of the Casino with a couple acquaintances, fully armed with my free 10€ chip and admission paper (following the vetting of my passport).  Hello, David Lynch.  No Sharon Stones throwing chips in the air - this place was somber.  There were several adjoining rooms housing roulette and baccarat tables and populated by cigar-smoking Italian ghouls and their gals.  I placed my chip on a roulette table and left without it about 10 seconds later.  Back out into the night, free shuttle boat back to the Palazzo Roma, and I got back to my hotel without falling into the canal.  Goodnight.








dimanche 9 février 2014

Postcards From Venice - Mamma Mia


From a culinary standpoint, during previous trips to Venice, Italy, I contented myself with taking the easy road - that is, leave my hotel and start walking until I am lost - that would take on average about 10 seconds.  Then find a restaurant that looks bereft of tourists, the sort of place that only true Venetians would know about.  Enter, order a simple plate of pasta and a bottle of wine, and find oneself in Venetian heaven.  So much for the easy road - now that I am penning - can one pen anything online? - a restaurant blog, my standards have risen and during my late January trip, I arrived at Marco Polo airport fully armed with a list of go-to venues.

A short walk from my hotel near the Piazalle Roma on the diminutive Gaffaro canal was number one on my list - Ristorante Ribot.  When I asked for advice at my hotel, Ribot was the first spot they mentioned - all the confirmation I needed.  I was psyched.  Despite no answer when I called to reserve, I was certain this was just some sort of Italian thing - they were too busy preparing in the kitchen to bother answering the phone, of course.  After a tasty glass of vodka in my hotel room, I traveled solo to Ribot - no relation to the fine guitarist Marc Ribot, by the way - and what I found was a shuttered, closed restaurant. So much for that idea.   When I inquired at the desk of the business next door, I was informed that the owners were on vacation all week, but were open for lunch.  Okay, maybe that's another Italian thing - you only go on vacation at night, but you're home during the day.  So I returned for lunch the next day, and this is what I found:



Ristorante Ribot when it's not opened



Yep, closed again.  Closed, and no cigar.  So no, apparently that is not an Italian thing that I mentioned before, and when Italians go on vacation during a week, you can count on their being away day and night.  At least that makes more sense.  But I was still out a couple meals.

So here's what I did.  For dinner, I walked half a block down and on the other side of the street was one of those little trattorias that I used to stumble into blindly and hope I could get an authentic Italian meal.  This turned out to be a pretty good choice, and the next day I read quite a lot good about Osteria Ae Cravate.


Osteria Ae Cravate
Address: Salizada san pantalon - santa croce, 36, 30135 Venezia, Italy
Phone:+39 041 528 7912



Some of the actual cravates hanging from the Osteria's ceiling




                        
Only a few tables were taken when I entered around 8 pm, with a few more filling up during the course of the evening.  The next day, however, they seemed to be doing a pretty brisk lunch business.  The padrone in chief did a pretty good job of lending a warm, traditional atmosphere to the place, and we bantered a little in his broken English and my non-Italian.  After a mise en bouche offering of white fish on toast  I started off with an excellent primo platto of risotto in black ink with sepia, one of my favorites.


White fish on toast to get things started
Risotto in black ink, with sepia





I must admit, with a couple glasses of wine, the bread, and the risotto, I was good to go - that is, sated.  But I had ordered a secondo, a grilled fish platter.  This was a real miss - the seafood was excellent - succulent and sweet - but the fish was dry and all tasted the same.  I couldn't finish it.



Grilled fish/seafood platter - should have been better







My guess is that Osteria does pasta and rice plates right - stick with those, go for lunch, and you should be pretty satisfied.  Sorry, I have no idea what is the origin of the tie/cravate motif - I can only guess.

Speaking of lunch, my second strike at Ribot was no big deal - I expected them to be closed for lunch, being the astute professor of vacations myself, I figured if you're on vacation the night before, there's a good chance you'll be on vacation the afternoon after.  As mentioned, this assumption proved correct.  So I was armed with some alternatives.

The first was recommended by my hotel, Al Vecio Pozzo.  The directions seemed simple - a 5 - 10 minute walk from the hotel.  Well, maybe it's me, but it is bloody near impossible to find anything in Venice, directions, GPS, free-roaming satellite, or not.  By the time I found Al Vecio it may have been lunch time the next day for all I know.  I would not be deterred, I found it, and it was closed (and it was still lunch time, by the way).



Al Vecio Pozzo when it's not open


 Don't ask me, I tell you what I know, and what I know is that it seems that a lot of Italian restaurateurs take their vacations around the end of January.  And by the looks of Al Vecio, that vacation had started a few decades earlier.  Fortunately, my next choices panned out.

To be continued...

mardi 31 décembre 2013

2013 - End of the Line

As the hours tick down to Jan. 1, it's time to put a wrap on 2013.  I had a bad feeling about '13' last year at this time and I was right.  Was 2013 a shitty year or what?  Anyway, as commissioner, owner, president, and CEO of this here  restaurant blog, it is my duty to provide my readers with something I am sure they are waiting for regarding 2013 - closure.  So without further adieu, some highlights and lowlights, from my own personal, egocentric, and biased perspective.  I promise to keep this short and sweet and keep my fingers crossed for good things in 2014.








  • Bones - despite all the hype, I liked this new entry into the Paris bar/tapas/bistrot scene anyway.  Co. was less than impressed, but I'm looking forward to a return trip.
  • Alain Milliat - way over there near the Eiffel Tower, this venue has a lot of potential.  Small but innovative dishes.
  • 6 Paul Bert - Paul Bert has expanded into more gastronomic country.  This may have been my  favorite new venue of the year.
  • For tapas, Mary Celeste rose to the top of the list.  Innovative food and drinks, lively place.  Braisenville didn't reach those heights, but there's something intriguing about braised tapas.
  • L'Apibo - enjoyable late summer dinner, bears watching.
  • The grilled fish in Lisbon.  I want more.
  •  Les Caves du Roy (31 Rue Simart, 75018 Paris) - finally I find a place that sells bitters for my martinis.  And where else in Paris can you find Aviation, Citadelle, and 6 Ravens gins (for the martinis)?  And speaking of the Ravens - the ones from Baltimore, that is - thanks for bringing the Lombardi trophy back to my original starting point Baltimore (Super Bowl 2013).
  • The Splendid Table - with nothing else to listen to on the radio on Sunday mornings, this show really fills a void (via TuneIn's WNYC feed on my tablet).  Lynne Rossetto Kasper's laugh and other vocal mannerisms are nerve wrenching, but boy does she know food, or does she know food?  http://www.splendidtable.org/
  • My new Fang laptop and Nexus 7 tablet.
  • Old favorite: Les Magnolias. . . keep on truckin'.





  • Le Gaigne - RIP.  Why, why, why?  Please come back, as you promise online.
  • La Gazzetta - au revoir chef Petter Nilsson, who returns to Sweden.  Bienvenue to  Luigi Nastri, who has big shoes to fill
  • Mansouri - I remember when this was a very good couscous restaurant.  Not any more.
  • Mama Shelter - interesting place, lively bar, blah food.
  • Septime - such a great restaurant, such a nightmare to reserve.

Au Revoir 2013, less than 7 hours to go.  And don't come back.





jeudi 26 décembre 2013

Catching Ups and Downs: Part 2

180 degrees to go to come full circle and put a lid on a 2013 I am forever happy to bid adieu.  On the heels of Mama Shelter and Le Boudoir, Co. and I returned to a couple of our personal favorites - La Gazzetta and Le Pleine Mer - with a minor detour along the rue de Lappe.  Put on your seat belts, here we go.

La Pirada

After a terrific concert by Matt Elliott and band at the Cafe de la Danse, just off the well-trodden rue de Lappe in Bastille, Co. and I were up for some late night grub and more fire water.  Our usual venue for such purposes is the comfortable Cuban spot Havanita, but let's face it, when it comes to authentic Cuban repasts, Havanita doesn't come close.  So we decided to check out the Spanish tapas just next door at La Pirada.  If there is something that Co. and I know a lot about when it comes to food, it is Spanish tapas, because, well, we spend a lot of time in Spain eating aforementioned Spanish tapas.  We didn't have high expectations for La Pirada and our low expectations were more or less confirmed.  But....what was lacking in authenticity was clearly made up by some above average, satisfying and copious plates, including the following:

Tapas de jour (8.50€)

Pulpo Gallega (10€) - heavy on the paprika, which was fine with me 


Calamares plancha (7.20€)


Not pictured, croquetas jamon (6.90€), my least favorite.  Along with a vino tinto, these offerings hit the spot in slaking our late night cravings - well, at least the edible and drinkable ones.

Needless to say if you know rue de Lappe, with it's never-ending stream of pedestrians, La Pirada benefits from location, location, location.  Even at the late hour of our visit, people were coming and going, non-stop.  Convivial, cheap, and there when you need it.  There's something to be said for that, even if the food ain't the top of the world, ma.

Inside La Pirada, a hint of Spain



A tip of the hat to Matt Elliott at the Cafe de la Danse, around the corner

LA PIRADA
address:  7, rue de Lappe, 75011 Paris
tel:  01 47 00 73 61
website:  http://www.pirada.com/


La Gazzetta

If you are a regular reader of PRAB, you know La Gazzetta, so there's really no need to elaborate again.  No, check that, yes there is.  One of the cool things that added to La Gazz's charm was their carte,which enabled the diner to select 5 (39€) or 7 (52€) plates from a list of 7 offerings.  I always found it somewhat confusing to figure out which were the entrees, plates, and desserts, but in the end it didn't matter because they were all innovative and good and you'd probably, like me, end up taking all 7 anyway at a price that was well worth it.

But what Co. and I found last January was something decidedly different - a standard entree/plat/fromage and/or dessert format (39€ or 45€, depending on the cheese).  So much for greater novelty and choice.  Our latest visit, during the first week of December, found a similar format, albeit with more choices, plenty of innovation, and, big surprise, raised prices (45€ and 55€).  Some of the offerings:


  • Raviolis d'epinards, oursin et pomelos
  • Salsifis - hibiscus - raisins de Corinthe oignon doux des Cevennes et persil
  • Agneau de Bourgogne et carotte rotie olives et citron confit
  • Sorbet de lait reduit, citron et meringues
  • Biscuit trempe de chataignes, yaourt de brebis compote de pomme Bertane

More distressing than the price increase, we were informed that the renowned chef of La Gazzetta since 2006, Swedish Petter Nilsson is leaving to return to the source, Stockholm, just in time for a Scandinavian Christmas.  Here is the Google translated latest news from La Gazz regarding what happens next:

La Gazzetta will continue to follow the same movement back to basics by using the Italian chef Luigi Nastri , a friend of Giovanni Passerini , chef of Rino restaurant and former second at La Gazzetta. Thus, the torch remains in the "family." Luigi is the new Roman cook and is ready to invest the scene with the desire for a modern trattoria. His kitchen ...will give a Mediterranean tone necessarily rhyming with the Italian name of La Gazzetta.

I'm not sure about that rhyming part.  Not a big fan of Rino, all I can say is 'why mess around with a good thing?  Can't we just have the old La Gazzetta back?'  Maybe my fear is unwarranted.  As far as I'm concerned, I will continue to recommend La Gazzetta as I always have until they give me a reason not to, but best to be forewarned that changes are in the wind.  To be continued...

 LA GAZZETTA
address:  29 rue de Cotte, 75012 Paris
tel:  01 43 47 47 05
website:  http://lagazzetta.fr/wordpress/


La Pleine Mer


I'm a modern kind of a guy, if I have to say so myself, and though I generally laugh in the face of tradition, Co. and I have a little budding annual tradition going, which consists of a late December visit to La Pleine Mer for oysters from the Cancal region of Brittany.  I've already told you everything you need to know about LPM, and though I may lament the coming changes to La Gazzetta, each visit to LPM further confirms that this place will never, ever change.  Yeah, I know, never say never, but LPM has that kind of an 'old reliable' feel about it.

If I've said it once, I've said it a hundred times - if you want authentic, inexpensive, super delicious oysters in Paris, this is the place.  No embellishments, no variation in the menu - your only choice is between oysters no. 1, 2, 3, or 4 depending upon availability.  You do have the option of a 'menu' - starting off with a plate of salmon, tarama, butter, and rye bread, and a glass of muscadet (included in the menu).  Then you wait for your dozen oysters, shucked in eye's view, and a bottle of muscadet (extra), and topped off with the cholesterol inducing guilty pleasure, the Breton cake Kouign-Amann (also extra, but only 3.50€). 

La Pleine Mer is just a hole in the wall not far from Gare de Nord, but it's inexpensive and definitely the real deal when you have a craving for oysters.  In fact, it's probably more of a take-out that formal sit-down restaurant.  During our meal, a steady influx of customers were coming in to pick up their holiday oysters for home.

LA PLEINE MER
address:  22, rue de Chabrol, 75010 Paris
tel:   01 53 34 64 47
website: are you kidding?


Before closing this elongated post (Parts 1 and 2), I should add that I finally got around to visiting Le
Le Square Gardette
Square Gardette
on rue rue Saint Ambrosie in the 11th, not far from the St Maur metro stop and even less far from my day job.

This was a holiday dinner celebrated with some colleagues, so my function was less reviewer than survivor.  Laid back and convivial, with some odd decorations.  I vaguely remember a tasty entree -  ceviche de merlan, litchi, grenade, and yes, popcorn - and a main fish plate - lieu noir - followed by a pre-selected triad of cheese, featuring a terrific slab of Cantal.  At 44€ for the 'menu', this isn't the best deal in town, but worth checking out.  Lunch might be a better option - just stay away from the quail, which rocked John Talbott's boat in the decidedly wrong way.

Some Square Gardette decor
LE SQUARE GARDETTE
address:  24, rue Saint Ambrosie, Paris 75011
tel:  01.43.55.63.07
website:  http://www.squaregardette.fr/